August 3, 2011
Years before assuming the position of Principal at Lightkeeper Consulting in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Ann Coyle served at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center as a Labor and Delivery Nurse. At the time, she was enrolled in the nursing program at the University of Maine, where she also obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Economics with high distinction. Ann Coyle, who currently resides in a small town outside Lebanon, spent a summer working at the Washington, D.C.-based medical center, and during that time, she participated in the births of more than 35 babies. In this article, she provides mothers-to-be with a brief overview of what to expect during and after the labor process.
Stage One. Labor often starts slowly; at first, you may not be sure it has even begun. In the earliest stage of labor, contractions are usually light, and you may be able to go about your day. As time goes on, contractions become longer and more frequent. Once the contractions start getting stronger and closer together, the time has come for you to go to the hospital, although women who do not intend to take pain medication may wait until the end of this stage or the beginning of the next. Close to the end of stage one, you will be fully dilated and may experience discomfort.
Stage Two. Once you are fully dilated, you can start pushing for 10 seconds at a time to try to get the baby’s head to breach the vaginal wall. Many women remain in stage two for several hours before they are able to push the baby out, while others can complete this stage more quickly. Some women have to receive a Caesarean section for the sake of their baby’s health and/or their own. At the end of this stage, you will be able to hold your baby in your arms.
Stage Three. Although the birth is over, you still need to expel the placenta. While this can happen naturally, some women have the urge to push. Stage three can begin anywhere from a few minutes to an hour after birth.
Stage Four. The last stage of labor involves no contractions. Your body starts changing now that the baby is no longer inside you. The postpartum stage will continue as your body develops and transforms, shedding the weight you gained during pregnancy.